The official Lebanese airline Middle East Airlines MEA announced that “starting Monday, February 17th, all airlines operating in Lebanon, including Middle East Airlines, will accept payment only in US dollars.”
“All payment cards, in addition to bank cheques, will be accepted on the condition of providing the transaction in foreign currency,” MEA added in their statement.
However, Lebanese Pound will be accepted in certain situations. Air Liban S.A.L., more commonly known as Middle East Airlines, emphasized that “passengers will be able to pay the overload charges and the fees for adjusting the reservation in Lebanese pounds at the Rafic Hariri International Airport.”
This statement comes crashing on the Lebanese people residing in Lebanon who have been suffering from an increase in the value of dollars to LBP and a major dollar shortage/outage throughout the country.
Considering that the Lebanese people are being forced to exchange LBP for higher rates than the official fixed-rate, and dollars have become a scarce commodity in Lebanon, MEA’s new rule will impede many from traveling out of Lebanon.
It begs the question: Will the Lebanese be held hostages in their own country by an impossible economic crisis, harsh banking measures, and now the airlines’ new policy?
On Saturday, February 15th, the exchange rate of one dollar was at 2400 LBP in money exchange markets. That’s in spite of the Lebanese Bank Association declaring a month ago that the fixed exchange rate of one dollar should not exceed 2000 LBP.
People residing in Lebanon are facing many financial and economic battles a day, starting with the high exchange rate of black markets, and ending with banks’ refusal of withdrawals more than 200-300$ a week, and some limiting them to $600 a month.
Lebanese journalist Ameen Abu Yehya tweeted: “Tickets payments are only accepted in dollars at the Middle East Airlines and the rest of the foreign airlines. Since the dollar is not available in the market, this means that half of the Lebanese are under house arrest.”
He concluded his tweet with a question: “But we don’t really understand why is the national company wants us to pay in dollars and not in Lebanese Pounds?”